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The price of even village Burgundy has gone through the roof; while good Bordeaux can cost an arm and a leg but fortunately for lovers of French-accented wines there is still terrific value to be found in the wines of south-west France. This is one such wine, from the Quercy appellation near Cahors, fully mature and full of regional character. It is made by the Gisbert family, who have been growing grapes since 1778, and imported by Thomas Gisbert, born and raised on the family vineyard and who runs La Mosaique wine imports in Melbourne. Aged in mainly older oak and using fruit from 40-year-old vines, this is a blend of "sustainably farmed" cabernet franc, merlot and cot (malbec) that has delightful balance, cassis and savoury notes, and carries just 12.5% alcohol. Seriously characterful for $35.
The remote Frankland River region of Western Australia has become a "go to" region for riesling lovers with some excellent quality and value to be found across the board. This very good example from Ferngrove highlights the quality cool-climate fruit and bright natural acidity found in the area. Floral, refreshing and with a hint of spice from the addition of a tiny portion of gewurztraminer, this is disturbingly drinkable with citrus notes, some sweet fruit and a solid acid backbone. Pair with pan-fried whiting fillets or take it to a Vietnamese eatery. $20. www.fermgrove.com.au.
With ambitious owners in Elias Jreissati and his family and a world-class winemaker in Paul Bridgeman, few newer wine labels can match the fast upward trajectory of Levantine Hill in the Yarra Valley. This is a classic example of cool-climate shiraz: it is a beautifully poised wine, with the elegance and structure both hitting high notes. This plush but perky number is a blend of nine different parcels of fruit and was recently won the overall syrah/shiraz trophy at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London - a serious heavyweight award. The judges there praised its "beautifully aromatic bouquet of lavender, musk, sweet spices and red berries" and described it as "full-bodied without being heavy: stunning". Well worth seeking out a bottle or two. Bugger anyone else; treat yourself to a bottle or two of this over the holidays. $85. www.levantinehill.com.au.
I tend to come over all gushy when I'm reviewing the high-end wines from Vanya Cullen and her talented Margaret River team of organic/biodynamic artists. Here I go again with a superbly calibrated chardonnay that ranks as world class. Unfined and unfiltered, this was wild-yeast fermented in barriques, puncheons and amphorae, underwent natural malo and was then matured for 10 months in French oak barrels (around one-third of which were new). The fruit used comes from 40+-year-old vines and was hand-picked and whole-bunch pressed. Think white peach, nectarine and some brioche/cream flavours that match with intense minerality and crispness on the finish. Pair with char-grilled king prawns for a Christmas treat. 96/100.
If you like a story behind your wine then this is named after the Brown family's maternal grandmother, Rosa, who used to enjoy a glass of rosé while playing cards. Light, crisp, delicate and refreshing, it is a blend of sangiovese (55%) and cabernet sauvignon (45%) that is more subtle than many North-East Victorian offerings. It's a food-friendly, drink-now style best enjoyed well chilled. Even better, the custom-made bottle is a cracker, with a schmicko Vin-O-Lok glass stopper. Remember the days when you stuck a candle is an empty bottle of Mateus Rosé or Chianti? Or maybe not. Those days could be back! $32. www.allsaintswine.com.au.